|Cultivating sanctuary in nature, environmental stewardship and the legacy of southern horticulture.|
About Elizabeth Lawrence
Elizabeth Lawrence was born in Marietta, Georgia, on May 27, 1904. The family moved several times, and in 1912, settled in Garysburg, NC. Lawrence "considered childhood the most important stage in a person's life," and had fond memories of her time in Garysburg.
In 1943, when she was asked to write a statement about herself for a horticultural journal, she remembered her Garysburg years:
In 1916 the family moved to Raleigh so that Elizabeth and her sister Ann might attend St. Mary’s School. Elizabeth then attended Barnard College in New York from 1922 - 1926. Upon graduation, she returned to Raleigh where she later studied landscape architecture at North Carolina State College (currently NC State University). In 1932, she became the first woman to graduate in this program at the college.
Elizabeth’s desire and passion was to garden and writing about gardening was what she knew best. In the 1930’s she slowly gained publication in a number of small garden periodicals, and then in 1942, A Southern Garden was published. It was lauded immediately. “Now, at long last,” wrote Charlotte Hilton Green, “there is a book on Southern gardening by a Southern writer that is a ‘must’ for every garden lover of the South.” It was reprinted in 1967, 1984, 1991 and 2001. A Southern Garden has long since been hailed as a classic.
In 1948, Elizabeth and her mother Bessie moved from Raleigh to Charlotte, NC, to be closer to her sister Ann and her family, who had moved to Charlotte earlier. Bessie purchased two adjacent lots on Ridgewood Avenue—one for Ann and her family, and the other for herself and Elizabeth. Elizabeth, now 44, and Bessie, 72, began building a house and making a garden just footsteps away from Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary.
During her 35 years on Ridgewood Avenue, Elizabeth wrote three books: The Little Bulbs, A Tale of Two Gardens, Gardens in Winter, and Lob’s Wood. She also prepared over 700 columns for publication in The Charlotte Observer.
One of the most significant and interesting aspects of her life was her friendships with plants people and gardeners from all over the country and the correspondence she enjoyed with them. Her relationship with Katharine White is just one of these, and the book Two Gardeners: A Friendship in Letters edited by Emily Herring Wilson records their exchange from 1958-1977. Katharine White wrote in her book, Upward and Onward in the Garden, “I have learned more about horticulture, plants, and garden history and literature from Elizabeth Lawrence than from any other one person.”
Lawrence sells house and garden
In 1984, Lawrence, in declining health, moved to Maryland to be close to family. She died in 1985 in Maryland.
Lawrence is regarded as a preeminent figure in the region’s horticultural history. As she wrote in an autobiographical essay published posthumously in the collection A Garden of One’s Own, Lawrence quickly learned, “that a knowledge of plant material for the South could not be got in the library, most of the literature of horticulture being for a different climate, and that I would have to grow the plants in my garden and learn about them for myself.” Her books and articles on what she learned constitute a curriculum on gardening in the South and a distinguished library of literary garden writing.